NLP for Social Science: From Language Models to Social Structures

In recent years, deep neural language models of varying size and scope have impressed scientists and laypeople alike with their ability to model and generate natural language. While the social sciences have previously been quick to pick up computational text analysis tools, the adaptation of increasingly complex neural language modeling to applied research has been more hesitant. Many seem to wonder exactly how to leverage the strength of these models in the context of social inquiry, and about the reliability of the computational narratives they produce.

For this first instantiation of the “NLP for Social Science” workshop organized at INCITE Columbia in collaboration with the Platial Analysis lab at McGill, we have invited social and computer scientists to present empirical work in which language models–whether large or small–are applied to tell a meaningful story about the social world. We expect our speakers to expand our imagination on the range of research designs and methods that the tools of language modeling enable for the social sciences. The workshop is organized biweekly starting February 2nd and ending May 11th 2023.


All sessions start at 4PM EST. Please register on Eventbrite here if you are interested in attending, whether online or in person. The Eventbrite description will appear as “online,” but all events are hybrid. In-person locations are listed in the Eventbrite description as well as the schedule below.

Date Speaker Title Institution Location
2/2/2023 Allison Parrish (NYU) Nothing survives transcription, nothing doesn’t survive transcription Columbia Knox Hall 509
2/9/2023 Andrew Piper (McGill) Toward a theory of narrativity using predictive modeling McGill Burnside Hall 512
3/2/2023 Lucy Li (Berkeley) Context-Dependent Depictions of People Across Three Domains Columbia Knox Hall 509
3/9/2023 Julia Mendelsohn (U Michigan) Using machines to uncover nuanced rhetorical strategies in political discourse McGill Burnside Hall 512
3/23/2023 Amir Goldberg (Stanford) Locally Ensconced and Globally Integrated: How Positions in Network Structure Relate to a Language-Based Model of Group Identification Columbia Knox Hall 509
4/13/2023 M. Brunila (McGill) & J. LaViolette (Columbia) Gentrification through Toponymy: A Case Study of Airbnb in New York City McGill Burnside Hall 512
4/27/2023 Lauren Klein (Emory) How Words Lead to Justice: Modeling Language Change in Two Abolitionist Movements Columbia Knox Hall 509
5/11/2023 Di Zhou (NYU) The Elements of Cultural Power: Novelty, Emotion, Status, and Cultural Capital Columbia Knox Hall 509

Venues & Organizers

The event is organized in cooperation between INCITE Columbia and the Platial Analysis lab at the McGill Geography Department.

The Columbia sessions will happen in room 509 at Knox Hall, West 122nd Street, NYC.

The sessions at McGill will happen in room 512 at Burnside Hall, 805 Sherbrooke Street West, Montreal.

Practical arrangements for the workshop are by Mikael Brunila (McGill) & Jack LaViolette (Columbia). For more information, contact one of us: